Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Democrats Jump the Shark in New York Special

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo
Recent polling shows a tight race in today’s special election for New York’s 9th district between Democratic New York Assemblyman David Weprin (above) and Republican businessman Bob Turner.

Whether the presidentís political problems in the district stem primarily from the economy or the perception among observant Jews that he isnít suitably supportive of Israel is a matter for some debate, but it really doesnít matter to Weprin right now.

With Democrats not rallying behind their partyís nominee as quickly and enthusiastically as they normally do, the DCCC and an outside Democratic group, House Majority PAC, together are spending about $600,000 on independent expenditure campaigns to elect Weprin, even though the district will likely be eliminated in redistricting.

Democrats argue that losing this seat would force them to eliminate a different Democratic seat when the Legislature draws new lines later this year or next in addition to making the redrawn 13th district (Staten Island/Brooklyn) more Republican.

ďThis isnít about one seat. Itís about two or three. The partyís $500,000 investment is insurance for the delegation, not for Weprin,Ē one Democratic insider insisted.

Democrats also want to avoid the public relations disaster that losing a reliably Democratic district would entail. The loss would play into the Republicansí narrative about the presidentís unpopularity, giving GOP talkers ammunition to argue that 2012 will be a nightmare for Democrats and that Medicare will not be the disaster for Republicans that Democratic strategists hope it will be.

The question is whether spending $600,000 on the race can change the contestís outcome and whether it is the best use of those resources for Democrats.

In many districts, a half-million dollars of TV would be a significant investment that could well move voters (for example, in northern Nevada, where a massive investment by Republicans is expected to pay off in a special election victory today), but in the New York City media market, it doesnít necessarily have that much effect.

National Democrats easily could have thrown Weprin under the bus, blaming him ­ó or him and Obama ó for the loss, saving money that could be used next year.

Iím not saying a loss would be without consequences for Democrats. It could affect fundraising and candidate recruitment.

But even if Weprin wins narrowly, nobody with a grain of common sense would see that victory as proof that Obama is not a drag on downballot Democratic candidates. Nor will astute observers believe the outcome means that Democratic candidates around the country will be able to use Medicare to trump jobs in next yearís campaigns.

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel (N.Y.), who represents parts of Long Islandís Nassau and Suffolk counties, surely feels pressure not to lose a New York City district, as does Crowley, an ambitious Democrat who has a reputation as a savvy strategist and surely would be embarrassed by a Turner victory.

There is plenty of blame to go around for the DCCCís predicament now in New Yorkís 9th district. Weprin and Obama are near the top of the list, but one person ranks above them.

ďAnthony Weiner deserves the blame. Without his actions, we wouldnít be in this situation,Ē one savvy Democrat fumed.

Thatís exactly how Republicans felt about former Rep. Chris Lee (R) right after they lost his upstate New York district in a May special election.

Stuart Rothenberg is editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

comments powered by Disqus




Want Roll Call on your doorstep?